A vegetarian diet may help people, particularly men, live longer than those who regularly eat meat, according to a study of more than 70,000 Seventh-Day Adventists.
Researchers followed the participants an average of 6 years. During that period, vegetarians, including those who also added seafood or dairy and egg products to their diet, had an average 12 percent lower chance of dying from any cause than meat-eaters, according to the findings published today in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study also found that male vegetarians were less likely to die from heart disease than non-vegetarians, while there were no similar results in women.
Vegetarian diets have been associated with a reduction in chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, the researchers said. The latest findings confirm earlier studies that show the health benefits of eating a vegetarian diet, said Michael Orlich, the lead study author.
“People should take these kinds of results into account as they’re considering dietary choices,” said Orlich, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Loma Linda University, a Seventh-Day Adventist institution in Loma Linda, California, in a May 31 telephone interview. “Various types of vegetarian diets may be beneficial in reducing the risk of death compared to non-vegetarian diets.”
It’s not clear whether avoiding red meat and processed meats plays a role in boosting life or whether the foods that vegetarians are eating lowers their risk of dying compared with non-vegetarians, Orlich said. He said he is planning a study to help identify which foods are explaining these results.
Researchers in the study looked at 73,308 men and women who are Seventh-Day Adventists, a Christian church with about 17 million members worldwide. The church, officially established in the U.S. in 1863, is known for celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday and a view that a second coming of Jesus Christ is imminent.
Those in the study were given a questionnaire to assess their diet. Researchers found that 5,548 people were vegans, 21,177 were vegetarians that ate dairy and egg products, 7,194 were vegetarians that included fish in their diets and 4,031 were semi-vegetarian, which includes eating meat infrequently. The rest were meat eaters.
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